Four of the top known candidates in a race for a newly carved-out congressional seat — former Mayor Bill de Blasio, Congressman Mondaire Jones, Councilmember Carlina Rivera and state Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon — said they would be in favor of expanding the nine-member U.S. Supreme Court, days after it overturned Roe v. Wade.
The four were asked for their positions on the issue during a Zoom forum co-hosted by a group of Democratic political clubs in Lower Manhattan. As many as 15 candidates are seeking the nomination on August 23rd, to represent the newly drawn 10th district, which includes Lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn.
The push to expand the court has gained momentum in the wake of divisive rulings last week on gun restrictions and abortions. And it could likely remain an issue for the foreseeable future in Congress. Several high-profile Democrats, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have voiced support for expanding the court, among other measures.
Each candidate was interviewed individually during the more than two-hour forum.
De Blasio called the court “a rogue entity” that no longer represented the views of the majority of Americans. “It literally, just in the course of a couple of days, stole the rights of American women in broad daylight,” he said.
Jones, who currently represents Westchester County, said he foresaw the problems and co-sponsored a bill with Rep. Jerrold Nadler to add four seats to the highest court back in April 2021.
“These are horrifying times and progress must be fought for and protected,” said Jones, who is among the first openly gay Black members of Congress. He also argued that Congress should try to limit the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over cases involving certain legislation.
Echoing a point made by the former mayor, Rivera contended that one of the seats on the court had essentially been “stolen,” referring to the failed 2016 confirmation of Merrick Garland, then-President Barack Obama’s nominee who was blocked by Republicans.
The Council member, who represents parts of Manhattan, also expressed support for ending the filibuster, a tactic used in the Senate that allows opposing lawmakers to delay a vote indefinitely.
Meanwhile, Simon said she would support an expanded court, but focused her remarks on setting term-limits for the justices.
“Lifetime tenure has in fact made them completely and utterly irresponsible,” she said.
Two other candidates, Peter Gleason and Maud Maron both said they opposed expanding the court because the changes could be offset when Republicans take control.
The court currently consists of a 6-3 conservative majority. Congress has a right to change the size of the court and the number of justices has changed over the centuries, fluctuating from as few as seven to as many as 10.
The Supreme Court was one of several topics discussed Wednesday night with only a partial group of candidates.
To accommodate the large field, the clubs, who are weighing endorsements in the race, split the slate of participants into two forums across two nights and a second forum will be held on Thursday. It is set to include former prosecutor and MSNBC legal analyst Daniel Goldman, state Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou and former Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman.